MANILA, Philippines—Ranidel De Ocampo’s words were replaced with tears, having just towed the Philippines to a trip to the Basketball World Cup, as he faced the buzzing media on Saturday night.
De Ocampo sobbed uncontrollably for a few minutes, and couldn’t string up the right words to explain how the Philippines’ historical 86-79 victory in the semifinals over South Korea in the 27th Fiba Asia championships went down.
There was no better way to describe such overwhelming feat, achieved after momentous struggle and sacrifice, than tears of joy.
“Gusto ko lang po magpasalamat sa lahat ng naniniwala. Sa lahat ng nagdasal po samin [Thanks to all who believed and prayed],” he said in tears. “Pasensya na po, di ko talaga mapigilan [sorry I really can’t help my tears].”
De Ocampo nailed a crucial triple with 1:27 left to play, which put the Philippines up 81-77—just one of the distinguished plays which finally ended the Filipinos’ longstanding heartbreak to the Koreans.
And De Ocampo couldn’t help but look back at their two-month build up leading to this historic day.
“Sandali lang po kami nagsama-sama, pero nagawa pa po rin naming manalo [we’ve been together only for a short time but we still managed to win.]” he said. “Para po sa inyo lahat ng pagsisikap at sakripisyo ng Gilas [We dedicate our hardwork and sacrifice to our fans.]”
Marc Pingris also remembered all the nights spent away from family, the cold in Lithuania and New Zealand where they had intensive training camps, just to get into the best form possible for the Asian Championships.
“Yung pinaghirapan namin, sa pag punta sa Lithuania at New Zealand. Mahirap mawalay sa pamilya [When we went to Lithuania and New Zealand, it was hard to be away from your family],” Pingris said.
Pingris stepped up to the plate as naturalized center Marcus Douthit couldn’t find the strength in his legs, after aggravating his injury in the second quarters, to rally the Philippines in the second half.
Aside from the hustle plays, it was Pingris’ layup with 19 ticks left which sealed the win.
And at that moment, it just all boiled down to what everyone at the Mall of Asia Arena was yelling repeatedly all night: “Puso [Heart!]”
“Di kami sinuswelduhan ng malaki. Sakripisyo lang talaga. Masarap maglaro eh. Dito mag-papakamatay kami. [We don’t earn much here. It’s just sacrifice. I love playing for the national team. We’ll fight to the death]” Pingris said in between tears. “Puso lang talaga Gagawin namin lahat ng makakaya para sa bayan. [We’ll do everything for the country.]”